Not Like My Father


Not Like My Father

The young generation of designers are willing to delve into the non-traditional and the non-bridal market.

In Indian fashion,it is time the new,talented breed of designers comes up with a radical answer to a boring adult question: so what will you do when you grow up? Had it been asked even six years ago,the answer to have likely come our way would have been,“I will be a Rohit Bal / Sabyasachi / Manish Arora” or “I am a creative person,am here to experiment”. Not any longer. If anything,the new guard in Indian fashion seems to be saying,that they want to learn the ropes from the big daddies but are not keen to replicate their style.

They want to experiment with new materials,invest in fabric innovation,showcase edgier silhouettes,and pursue commercial viability. In practice,this is a painstaking list of values,adherence to which is not easy. Yet,even those habitually deafened by the noise of bridal wear would agree that there is an alternative voice in Indian fashion and it is growing louder. There is a fresh interpretation of Indianwear which is shrugging off the baggage of hand embroidery,zari,khadi and handloom while subtly using some of it anyway. Stores such as Mumbai’s Bungalow 8,Bombay Electric,or Hyderabad’s Anonym among others,run by forward thinking,young female entrepreneurs are helping nurture an alternative retail environment.

The rumblings began a few years back when Atsu Sekhose,Rahul Mishra,Aneeth Arora,Pankaj and Nidhi,Nachiket Barve,Anand Kabra,Shilpa Chavan,Kallol Dutta,Amit Aggarwal,to name a few — followed later by Masaba Gupta — began to emerge. These weren’t just “interesting kids” but viable designers. Yet,as a collective,their voice was feeble,also because some of them realised that “new fashion” wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Kabra went on to include bridal wear in his shows and Barve chose to become more populist. But some like Kallol Dutta and Aneeth Arora stuck to their guns,sharply steering away from bridal and bling.

Now,if the collective voice is clearer,it is also because there is a “voice-over” instilling confidence. The recently concluded winter-festive 2012 edition of the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai closed with two,non-festive designers — Pankaj-Nidhi and Kallol Dutta. Also,Vogue India,in partnership with Fashion Design Council of India,announced the Vogue Fashion Fund for emerging Indian designers. The winner will be announced later this month from among six shortlisted designers. He/she will get a cash prize and a one-year business,marketing and PR mentorship with an industry professional,partnership with a leading retailer,access to Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week and Vogue coverage. This year,fashion glossy Grazia too gave away awards to young designers. Then,there is the International Woolmark Prize. Its first India winners — designer duo Pankaj and Nidhi Ahuja — were awarded 50,000 Australian dollars (approx Rs 28 lakh). The money,explains Pankaj,will be invested in their next collection and not on fanciful factory premises or boutiques. Sponsors,too,are willing to take risks instead of placing their money only on big names.

The new breed will soon have to find ways to take Indian fashion beyond what certain sections call it — a cottage industry. If pret is the new power,their growth will also mean strategies to compete with mass retailers such as Zara and Mango. Affordability with top quality will be a big consideration. That’s not all. With the sustainable fashion revolution gathering momentum globally,Indian designers won’t be wise ignoring fair trade practices,logo-less clothing solutions and creating garments that need less,not more,maintenance. In India,bridal wear will continue to beckon seductively. Pankaj admits that there is pressure from customers and retailers to create bridal clothes. Also,younger designers will also need Bollywood to endorse them occasionally.

Veteran designer Suneet Varma — who astutely diversified into design consultancies,brand collaborations and teaching,as part of his brand — says,“Fashion is a competitive,cut-throat and glam industry. It can easily sweep you off your feet. I always tell my students not to treat their careers like a hobby but like a discipline,if not a business,” he says.

So what will you do when you grow up,I asked one of the talented young names in fashion. “Not become a Sabyasachi,” he replied.